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Fr. Raymond Gravel elected to Parliament.

Ottawa -- The dissident Quebec Catholic priest who ran for federal political office, despite Vatican pronouncements against such actions, has been elected to Parliament. He becomes the first priest to sit in the House of Commons since 1980 when Pope John Paul II prohibited priests in politics. Father Raymond Gravel, representing the Bloc Quebecois, captured two-thirds of the vote in a November 27 by-election to take the Montreal-area riding of Repentigny. This took place in the wake of statements from the bishop of Joliette, Most Rev. Gilles Lussier, who confirmed the Vatican had given no "green light" for Gravel to run. In a controversial manoeuvre, Bishop Lussier declared Gravel could keep his priestly status while active in a political party, but would be released from the exercise of priestly ministry.

Of even greater concern to faithful Catholics than Gravel's electoral run, however, is his long-time dissent from Church teachings on key matters such as abortion and homosexuality. A former male prostitute who went on to serve drinks in a Montreal leather bar before entering the priesthood, Gravel has been described as "openly gay" in press reports--although he told one newspaper recently he is not homosexual. He also holds non-Catholic positions on same-sex 'marriage,' abortion, and the ordination of women. Despite pledging to abstain on some moral issues, he plans to vote against reopening the debate on marriage. He is "rarely ... afraid to take on the Church establishment" (Montreal Gazette, Nov. 28, 2006; Canadian Catholic News, Nov. 29, 2006).

In a 2005 interview printed in a Montreal homosexual magazine, Gravel opined that most priests do not respect their vows of celibacy and that 50 per cent of Quebec priests are homosexual (Tor. Star, Nov. 27, 2006). In 2004, he boasted in a radio interview that he was "pro-choice and there is not a bishop on earth that will prevent me from receiving Communion, not even the Pope" (LifeSiteNews, Nov. 28, 2006).

Gravel's election as a Member of Parliament had an immediate impact throughout Canada as the nation's media from coast to coast reported on his "colourful past," to use the expression of the Toronto Star (Nov. 28, 2006), and his present dissent from the Church's position on abortion, same-sex 'marriage,' and women's ordination.

The episode has prompted an outcry among faithful Catholics not only in Canada, but elsewhere in the world. Submissions to an online forum in the U.S.-based Catholic World News magazine (Nov. 2, 2006), for example, were sharply critical of Bishop Lussier's handling of Gravel's candidacy. "The tactically limited truthfulness and sheer subterfuge that we meet in every aspect of the Gravel story is exasperating," wrote one poster. "It's clear they're not levelling with us. The distinction between Gravel's priestly status and his exercise of priestly ministry may satisfy a canon lawyer, but 90 per cent of the faithful (and the public) will understand simply that a notorious gay-activist priest, who has not been defrocked, is running for office without public opposition from the Church. If this is pastoral solicitude, what does pastoral malfeasance look like?"

On December 7, 2006, Gravel abstained from voting on the motion to re-open the same-sex 'marriage' debate.
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Title Annotation:Canada
Publication:Catholic Insight
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Jan 1, 2007
Words:525
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